Physicists who choose to specialize in optics have an extraordinary array of career options. You could choose to work in academia at the cutting edge of science, in areas such as optical metamaterials, quantum communications, or attosecond lasers. Or you could join an industrial firm specializing in photonic devices, such as lasers and LEDs.
A postgraduate degree will help you to decide on which career path to follow, and will also help you to secure a job in the area that interests you. It's a good idea to visit one of the big optics events, such as LASER World of Photonics or Photonics West, to find out what's on offer.
Slava Rokitski describes how a childhood interest in the way things work led him to a career in laser manufacturing.
If the laser in your laboratory is not working, your first port of call (after the instruction manual!) will be someone like Harald Ellmann, whose fascination with practical problem-solving led to a career in technical support.
Kate Fox describes how strokes of luck – both good and bad – led her to work on an interdisciplinary "bionic eye" project aimed at helping people with retinal disease.
The range of opportunities for physicists at science companies is wider than one might expect, as Alyssa Armstrong discovered when she joined a laser research and manufacturing company.